Conservation Groups Urge Passage of New Bird-Safe Standards for San Francisco Buildings

For Immediate Release Contact:

, 202-234-7181 ext.210

Mike Lynes, 510-843-6551



Window reflection on a office building. Photo: Christine Sheppard

Window reflection on a office building.

Photo: Christine Sheppard

(Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, CA, October 18, 2010) American Bird Conservancy and Golden Gate Audubon are urging the San Francisco Planning Commission to pass the Bird Safe Building Standards they began reviewing at their October 14th meeting. The standards would greatly reduce bird deaths and injuries resulting from collisions with buildings in the city.

“In considering city-wide building standards to protect birds, the San Francisco Planning Commission is showing national leadership on this tragic wildlife issue. American Bird Conservancy is pleased to have worked with Golden Gate Audubon to provide expertise to help develop this very forward-thinking and wildlife-friendly approach to a problem that is plaguing cities today – how to prevent up to one billion birds from dying each year in building collisions nationwide,” said Dr. Christine Sheppard, manager of ABC’s Bird Collisions Campaign.

“Bird deaths from building strikes, one of the main causes of bird mortality in the U.S., can often be prevented with reasonable, affordable measures. The City of San Francisco can take a bold and positive approach to the problem by adopting the Standards for Bird Safe Buildings that will identify hazards and reduce bird collisions.” said Mark Welther, Executive Director of Golden Gate Audubon.

The San Francisco Planning Commission is expected to vote on the38-page “Standards for Bird Safe Buildings” early in 2011. The standards include sections on safer windows, reducing night lighting, and the construction of wind turbines in the urban environment.

Reduction of bird strikes with new buildings can be achieved with simple and cost-effective means. For example, fritting – the placement of ceramic lines or dots on glass – is often already used to reduce air conditioning costs by lowering heat gain in window. If fritting is applied in particular patterns, it increases the visibility of the window to birds and reduces the likelihood of impacts with little effect on the transparency of the glass, so it does not affect views or light passing through the window for people.

The standards also address the effects of light pollution, which can confound birds’ ability to navigate by the stars during migration. Lighted buildings and towers can draw birds off course and result in exhaustion, injury, or death for millions every year. The standards would reduce unnecessary interior and exterior lighting during the bird migratory seasons, reducing risks to birds.

Bird-safe measures often have other benefits for building owners and operators. For example, fitting reduces heat gain through windows and decreases cooling costs. Turning off unnecessary lights can save owners and operators thousands of dollars a year while greatly reducing risks to birds.

The standards split parts of San Francisco into “Blue” and “Green” zones, depending on the degree of risk new projects in those areas may pose to birds. Compliance with the standards will be mandatory in Blue Zones, which are located near bird nesting and feeding sites, in fog-prone areas, along migration paths and resting areas, or in districts that are zoned to allow tall buildings. In lower-risk Green Zones, the standards will provide voluntary options for reducing risks to birds.

“There already are a number of buildings in San Francisco, such as the San Francisco Federal Building and the De Young Museum, that are, albeit unintentionally, already bird-friendly. Where new construction is concerned, the bird-friendly options need not be more expensive, since bird safe materials and designs can be incorporated from the beginning,” Sheppard said.

While San Francisco is looking at this issue on a local level, Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL) has introduced national legislation (HR 4797) that calls for each public building constructed, acquired, or altered by the General Services Administration (GSA) to incorporate, to the maximum extent possible, bird-safe building materials and design features. The legislation would require GSA to take similar actions on existing buildings, where practicable. The terms “bird-safe building materials and design features” are defined through reference to several publications addressing those topics.

“Protecting and helping birds is not only the right thing to do, it is also good for the economy and the future of our environment. Birds are invaluable as controllers of crop insect pests and as pollinators of plants, seed distributors and they also generate tremendous economic revenues through the pastimes of bird feeding and birdwatching,” said Sheppard.

A recent federal government study reports that over 20 percent of the U.S. population – 48 million people – participates in birdwatching, spending about $36 billion annually in pursuit of their pastime.

Copies of the proposed guidelines are available online at:

To learn more about bird collisions with buildings, go to:



American Bird Conservancy ( conserves native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats while building capacity of the bird conservation movement. ABC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization that is consistently awarded a top, four-star rating by the independent group, Charity Navigator.

Golden Gate Audubon ( is dedicated to protecting Bay Area birds, other wildlife, and their natural habitats. We conserve and restore wildlife habitats, connect people of all ages and backgrounds with the natural world, and educate and engage Bay Area residents in the protection of our shared, local environment. Golden Gate Audubon is an independent, nonprofit organization with its own membership, budget and programs.

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